If good intentions were enough, everyone would get rave reviews for customer service, though it takes more to bridge the gap between service excellence and being at the top of your industry.  You might be tempted to focus on your biggest challenge but that’s typically one major nut to crack, right? What if you instead focused on the hundreds of little nuts? Whether you’re looking at sales strategies, damage control or improving communication, putting small effort into a full range of customer interactions may be a better option.

Play I-Spy for Customer Service Challenges

Play detective and map out your customer’s path from beginning to end of the customer’s journey. Zero in on creative ways to ramp up your customer’s opinion of your organization. Get customer and front-line feedback, too, so you’re able to spot hidden customer service challenges.

Then dig deeper. Find other areas to improve. Do your leaders, managers and staff work with trust, transparency and a positive regard for each other? Are values, standards, and expectations well-defined and reinforced?  It’s easy to draw a line between what’s happening between coworkers and its effect on your customers.

As your team puts together a strategy and rolls out continuous improvements on a regular basis, go ahead and tackle your major challenges, but remember to include the small stuff. Sometimes it’s the tiny changes (like making eye-contact when a customer is near, or saying “thank you” after a sale) that creates a lasting positive impression on your customers.

Here’s an example that your whole team can put to use right away. Be sure to add this topic to meeting conversations and internal newsletters so it becomes a focus of your organization’s service efforts.

Improve Listening Etiquette Company-wide

Ever catch yourself cutting people off mid-sentence? If so, practice pressing the pause key until your customer (or coworker) is done talking. As tempting as it may be, resist the urge to formulate what you’re going to say while they’re talking. (Don’t think about what you’re having for dinner either.) Listen to more than the words. Pick up on tone, attitude and what’s not being said. Remind yourself that the simple act of listening sends a strong message to people that they matter.

But what if they won’t shut up?  If you encounter a “chronic talker” – someone who has a habit of over-talking, over-sharing, and over-taxing your patience – there’s something you can do to move the conversation along without stepping on their words. Talk on their in-breath. At the end of your customer’s sentence, she’ll need to take a breath. That’s when you can jump in and summarize what you’ve heard so far. As you do, your customer gets the satisfaction of feeling understood. Once they feel heard, they’ll be more open to listen to what you have to say.

What about you? Want our help with the big, medium-sized and small nuts that need cracking to take your customer service to the highest levels? Email us at info@WhosYourGladys.com  to set up a time to talk with us about how we can help.


Written by Marilyn Suttle, international conference speaker, trainer, and bestselling author who works with organizations to ensure a strong customer focus and successful leadership teams.

Resources to support your service excellence:

Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan by bestselling authors Marilyn Suttle and Lori Jo Vest is known as the business bible – a blueprint for client service success.

Taming Gladys! The Busy Leader’s Guide to Creating Fierce Customer Loyalty is filled with activities you can do with your staff to keep customer loyalty strong.

The Customer Service Roadmap is an in-house customer service training program designed for employees who have front line customer contact — face to face, telephone, email, chat, forums, etc.  Instead of a one-time training event, we offer a series of short, bite-sized courses focused on developing 7 core customer service skills.

Email Marilyn@MarilynSuttle.com for more information.


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